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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Γενεαλογία ), literally the act or art of the γενεαλογός , i.e., of him who treats of birth and family, and reckons descents and generations. Hence, by an easy transition, it is often (like ἱστορία ) used of the document itself in which such series of generations is set down. In Hebrew the term for a genealogy or pedigree is סֵפֶר הִיִּחִשׂ, or סֵפֶר תּוֹלְדוֹת "the book of the generations;" and because the oldest histories were usually drawn up on a genealogical basis, the expression is often extended to the whole history, as in the case of the Gospel of Matthew, where "the book of the generations of Jesus Christ" includes the whole history contained in that gospel. So Genesis 2:4, "These are the generoatiens of the heavens and of the earth," seams to be the title of the history which follows. Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10; Genesis 11:27; Genesis 25:12; Genesis 25:19; Genesis 36:1; Genesis 36:9; Genesis 37:2, are other examples of the same usage, and these passages seem to mark the existence of separate histories from which the book of Genesis was compiled. Nor is this genealogical form of history peculiar to the Hebrews or the Shemitic races. The earliest Greek histories were also genealogies. Thus the histories of Acusilaus of Argos and of Hecataeus of Miletus were entitled Γενεαλογίαι, and the fragments remaining of Xalsithus, Charon of Lampsacus and Hellanicus are strongly tinged with the same genealogical element (comp. Josephus, Apion, 1:3), which is not lost even in the pages of Herodotus. The frequent use of the patronymic in Greek, the stories of particular races, as Heraslides, Alemasonidse, etc., the lists of priests, and kings, and conquerors at the games, preserced at Ellis, Spaita, Olympia, and elsewhere; the hereditary monarchies and priesthoods, as of the Branchidae, Eumolpidae, etc., in so many cities in Greece and Greek Asia; the division, as old as Homer, into tribes, fratriae, ane γένη and the existence of the tribe, the gens, and the familia among the Romans; the Celtic clans, the Saxon families using a common patranymic, and their royal genealogies running back to the Teutonic gods, these are among the many instances that may be cited to prove the strong family and genealogical instinct of the ancient world. Coming nearer to the Israelites, it will be enough to allude to the hereditary principle, and the vast genealogical records of the Egyptians, as regards their kings and priests, and to the passion for genealogies among the Arabs, mentioned by Layard and others, in order to show that the attention paid by the Jews to genealogies is in entire accordance with the manners are tendencies of their contemporaries. In their case, however, it was heightened by several peculiar circumnstances. The promise of the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob successively, and the separation of the Israelites from the Gentile world; the expectation of the Messiah as to spring from the tribe of Judah; the exclusively hereditary priesthood of Aaron with its dignity and emoluments; the long succession of kings in the line of David; and the whole division and occupation of the land upon genealogical principles by the tribes, families, and houses of fathers, gave a deeper importance to the science of genealogy among the Jews than perhaps in any other nation. We have already noted the evidence of the existence of family memoirs even before the flood, to which wee are probably indebted for the genealogies in Genesis 4, 5; and Genesis 10, 11, etc., indicate the continsuance of the same system in the times between the flood and Abraham. But with Jacob, the founder of the nation, the system of reckoning by genealogies הַתְיִחֵשׂ or in the languase of Moses, Numbers 1:18, הַתְיִלֵּד was much further developed. In Genesis 35:22-26, we have a formal account of the sons of Jacob, the patriarchs of the nation, repeated in Exodus 1:1-5. In Genesis 46 we have an exact genealogical census of the house of Israel about the time of Jacob's demise in Egypt. The way in which the former part of this census, relating to Reuben and Simeon, is quoted in Exodus 6, where the census of the tribe of Levi is all that was wanted, seems to show that it was transcribed from an existing document. When the Israelites were in the wilderness of Sinai, in the second month of the second year of the Exoadms, their number was taken by divine command, "after their families, by the house of their fathers," tribe by tribe, and the number of each tribe is given "by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls" (Numbers 1, 3). This census was repeated 38 years afterwards, and the names of the families added, as we find in Numbers 26. According to these genealogical divisions they pitched their tents, and marched, and offered their gifts and offerings, and chose the spies. According to the same they cast the lots by which the troubler of Israel, Achan, was discovered, as later those by which Saul was called to the throne. Above all, according to these divisions, the whole land of Canaan was parceled out amongst them. But now of necessity that took place which always has taken place with respect to such genealogical arrangements, viz. that by marriage, or servitude, or incorporation as friends and allies, persons not strictly belonging by birth to such or such a family or tribe, were yet reckoned in the census as belonging to them, when they had acquired property within their borders and were liable to the various services in peace or war which were performed under the heads of such tribes and families. Nobody supposes that all the Cornelbi, or all the Campbells, sprang from one ancestor, and it is in the teeth of direct evidence from Scripture, as well as of probability, to suppose that the Jewish tribes contained absolutely none but such as were descended from the twelve patriarchs. (Jul. Africanus, in his Ep. to Aristides, expressly mentions that the ancient genealogical records at Jerusalem included those who were descended from proselytes and γειώραι, as well as those who sprang from the patriarchs. The registers in Ezra and Nehemiah include the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants.) The tribe of Levite as probably the only one which had no admixture of foreign blood. In many of the Scripture genealogies, as e.g. those of Caleb, Joala, Segub, and the sons of Rephaiah, etc., in (1 Chronicles 3:21, it is quite clear that birth was not the ground of their incorporation into their respective tribes. (See BECHER); (See CALEB).
However, birth was, and continued to be throughout their cehole national course, the foundation of all the Jewish organization, and the reigns of the more active and able kings and rulers were marked by attention to genealogical operations. When David established the Temple services on the footing which continued till the time of Christ, he divided the priests and Levites into courses and companies, each under the family chief. The singers, the porters, the trumpeters, the players on instruments, were all thus genealogically distributed. Ins the active stirring reign of Rehoboam, we have the work of Iddo concerning genealogies (2 Chronicles 12:15). When Hezekiah reopened the Temple, and restored the Temple services which had fallen into disuse, he reckoned the whole nation by genealogies. This appears from the fact of many of the genealogies in Chronicles terminating in Hezekiah's reign, from the expression, "So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies" (1 Chronicles 9:1), immediately following genealogies which do so terminate, and from the narrative in 2 Chronicles 31:16-19, proving that, as regards the priests and Levites, such a complete census was taken by Hezekiah. It is indicated also in 1 Chronicles 4:41. We learn, too, incidentally from Proverbs 25, that Hezekiah had a staff of scribes, who would be equally useful in transcribing genealogical registers as in copying out Proverbs. So also in the reign of Jotham, king of Judah, who, among other great works, built the higher gate of the house of the Lord (2 Kings 15:3-5), and was an energetic as well as a good king, we find a genealogical reckoning of the Reubenites (1 Chronicles 5:17), probably in connection with Jotham's wars against the Ammonites (2 Chronicles 27:5). When Zerubbabel brought back the captivity from Babylon, one of his first cares seems to have been to take a census of those that returned, and to settle them according to their genealogies. The evidence of this is found in 1 Chronicles 9, and the duplicate passage Nahum 11; in 1 Chronicles 3:19; and yet more distinctly in Nehemiah 7:5; Nehemiah 7:12. In like manner, Nehemiah, as an essential part of that national restoration which he labored so zealously to promote, gathered "together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy" (Nehemiah 7:5; Nehemiah 12:26). The abstract of this census is preserved in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7, and a partion of it in 1 Chronicles 3:21-24. That this system was continued after their times, as far at least as the priests and Levites were concerned, we learn from Nehemiah 12:22; and we have incidental evidence of the continued care of the Jews still later to preserve their genealogies in such passages of the apocryphal books as 1 Maccabees 2:1-5; 1 Maccabees 8:17; 1 Maccabees 14:29, and perhaps Judith 8:1; Tobit 1:1, etc. Passing on to the time of the birth of Christ, we have a striking incidental proof of the continuance of the Jewish genealogical economy in the fact that when Augustus ordered the census of the empire to be taken, thee Jews in the province of Syria immediately went each one to his own city, i.e., (as is clear from Joseph going to Bethlehem, the city of David), to the city to which his tribe, family, and father's house belonged. Thus the return, if completed, doubtless exhibited the form of the old censuses taken by the kings of Israel and Judah.
Another proof is the existence of our Lord's genealogy in two forms, as given by Matthew and Luke. (See below.) The mention of Zacharias as "of the course of Abia," of Elizabeth as "of the daughters of Aaron," and of Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, as "of the tribe of Aser," are further indications of the same thing (Luke 1:51; Luke 2:36). This conclusion is also expressly confirmed by the testimony of Josephus in the opening of his Life, § 1. There, after deducing his own descent, "not only from that race which is considered the noblest among the Jews, that of the priests, but from the first of the twenty-four courses" (the course of Jehoiarib), and on the mother's side from the Asmonaean sovereigns, he adds, "I have thus traced my genealogy as I have found it recorded in the public sables" (ἐν ταῖς δημοσίαις δέλτοις άναγεγραμμένην ); and again, contr. Apion, 1:7, he states that the priests were obliged to verify the descent of their intended wives lay' reference to the archives kept at Jerusalem; adding that it was the duty of the priests, after every war (and he specifies the wars of Antiochus Epiph., Pompea, and Q. Varus), to make new genealogical tables from the old ones, and to ascertain what women among the priestly families had been made prisoners, as all such were deemed improper to be wives of priests. As a proof of the care of the Jews in such matters, he further mentions that in his day the list of successive high-priests preserved in the public records extended through a period of 2000 years. From all this it is abundantly manifest that the Jewish genealogical records continued to be kept till near the destruction of Jerusalem. Hence we are constrained to disbelieve the story told by Africanus concerning the destruction of all the Jewish genealogies by Herod the Great, in order to conceal the ignobleness of his own origin. His statement isn, theat up to that time the Hebrew genealogies had been preserved entire, and the different families were traced up either to the patriarchs, or the γειώραι or mixed people; but that on Herod's causing these genealogies to be burnt, only a few of the more illustrious Jews who had private pedigrees of their owne, or who could supply the lost genealogies fronc memory, or from the books of chronicles, were able to retain any account of their own lineage — among whom, he says, were the Desposyni, or brethren of our Lord, froes whom was said to be derived the scheme (given by Africanus) for reconciling the two genealogies of Christ. But there can be little doubt that the registers of the Jewish tribes and families perished at the destruction of Jerusalems, and not before. Some partial records may, however, have survived that event, as it is probable, and indeed seems to be implied in Josephus's statement, that at least the priestly families of the dispersion had records of their own genealogy. We learn, too, from Benjamin of Tudela, that in his day the princes of the captivity professed to trace their descent to David, and he also names others, e.g. R. Calonymos, "a descendant of the house of David, as proved by his pedigree" (Itin. ed. Asher, 1:32), and R. Eleazar ben-Tsemach, "who possesses a pedigree of his descent from the prophet Samuel, and knows the melodies which were sung in the Temple during its existence" (ib. page 100, etc.). He also mentions descendants of the tribes of Dans, Zabulon, and Napthali, among the mnountains of Khasamin, whose prince was of the tribe of Levi. The patriarchsi of Jerusalemn, so called from the Hebrew ראֹשׁ ָֹאבוֹת, claimed descent fromn Hillel, the Babylonian, of whom it is said that a genealogy, found at Jerusalem, declared his descent from David and Abital. Others, however, taraced his descent from Benjamin, and from David only through a daughter of Shephatiah (Wolf, B. H. 4:380). B
ut, however tradition may have preserved for a while true genealogies, or imagination and pride have coined fibtitious ones after the destruction of Jerusalem, it may be safely affirmed that the Jewish genealogical system then came to an end. Essentially connected as it was with the tenure of the land on the one hand, and with the peculiar privileges of the houses of David and Levi on the other, it naturally failed when the land was takers away from the Jewish race, and when the promise to David was fulfilled, and the priesthood of Aaron superseded by the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God. The remains of the genealogical spirit among the later Jews (which might, of course, be much more fully illustrated from Rabbinical literature) has only been glanced at to show how deeply it had penetrated into the Jewish national mind. It remains to be said that just notions of the nature of the Jeemish genealogical records are of great importance with a view to the right interpretation of Scripture. Let it only be remembered that these records have respect to political and territorial divisions, as much as to strictly genealogical descent, and it will at once be seen how erroneous a conclusion it may be, that all who are called "sons" of such or such a patriarch, or chief father, must necessarily be his very children. Just as in the very first division into tribes Maanasseh and Ephraim were numbered with their uncles, as if they had been sons instead of grandsons (Genesis 48:5) of Jacob, so afterwards the names of persons belonging to different generations would often stand side by side as heads of families or houses, and be called the sons of their common ancestor. For example, Genesis 46:21 contains grandsons as well as sons of Benjamin (See BELAH), and Exodus 6:24 probably enumerates the son and grandson of Assir as heads, with their father, of the families of the Korhites; and so in innumerable other instances. If any one family or house became extinct, some other would succeed to its place, called after its own chief father. Hence, of course, a census of any tribe drawn up at a later period would exhibit different divisions from one drawn cup at an earlier. Compare, e.g., the list of courses of priests in Zerubbabel's time (Nehemiah 12) with that of those in David's time (1 Chronicles 24). The same principle must he borne in mind in interpreting any particular genealogy. The sequence of generations may represent the succession to such or such an inheritance or headship of tribe or family rather than the relationship of father and son. Again, where a pedigree was abbreviated, it would naturally specify such generations as would indicate from what chief houses the person descended. Im cases where a name was common the father's name would be added for distinction only. These reasons would be well unsderstood at the time, though it masy be difficult now to ascertain them positively. Thus, in the pedigree of Ezra, (Ezra 7:1-5), it would seem that both Seraiah and Azariah were heads of houses (Nehemiah 10:2); them are both therefore named. Hilkiah is named as having been high-priest, and his identity is established by the addition "the son of Shallum" (1 Chronicles 10:13); the next named is Zadok, the priest in David's time, who was chief of the sixteen courses sprung froes Eleazar, and then follows a complete pedigree from this Zadok to Aaron. But then, as regards the chronological use of the Scripture genealogies, it follows from the above view that great caution is necessary in using them as measures of time, though they are invaluable for this purpose whenever we can be sure that they are complete. What seems necessary to make them trustworthy measures of time is, either that they should have special internal marks of being complete, such as where the mother as well as the father is named, or some historical circumstance defines the several relationships, or that there should be several genealogies, all giving the same number of generations within the same termini. When these conditions are found, it is difficult to overrate the value of genealogies for chronology. In determining, however, the relation of generatieons to time, some allowance must be made for the station in life of the persons in question. From the early marriages of the princes, the average of even thirty years to a generation will probably be found too bong for the kings.
Another feature in the Scripture genealogies which it is worth while to notice is the recurrence of the s.ine name, or modification of the same name, such as Tobias, Tobit, Nathan, Mattatha, and even of names of the same signification, in the same family. This is an indication of the carefulness with which the Jews kept their pedigrees (as otherwise they could not have known the names of their remote ancestors); it also gives a clew by which to judge of obscure or doubtful genealogies. In some cases, however, this repetition seems to have resulted from erroneous transcription.
The Jewish genealogies have two forms, one giving the generations in an ascending, the other in an ascending scale. Examples of the descending form may be seen in Ruth 4:18-22, or 1 Chronicles 3. Of the ascending, 1 Chronicles 6:33-43; Ezra 7:1-5. The descending form is expressed by the formula A begat B, and B begat C, etc.; or, the sons of A, B his son, C his son, etc.; or, the sons of A, B, C, D; and the sons of B, C, D, E; and the sons of C, E, F, G, etc. The ascending is always expressed in the same way. Of the two, it is obvious that the descending scale is the one in which we are most likely to find collateral descents, inasmuch as it implies that the object is to enumerate the heirs of the person at the head of the stem; and if direct heirs failed at any point, collateral ones would have to be inserted. In all cases, too, where the original document was preserved, when the direct line failed, the heir would naturally place his own name next to his predecessor, though that predecessor was not his father, but only his kinsman; whereas in the ascending scale there can be no failure in the nature of things. But neither form is in itself more or less fit than the other to express either proper or imputed filiation.
Females are named in genealogies when there is anything remarkable about them, or when any right or property is transmitted through them. See Genesis 11:29; Genesis 22:23; Genesis 25:1-4; Genesis 35:22-26; Exodus vii 23; Numbers 26:33; 1 Chronicles 2:4; 1 Chronicles 2:19; 1 Chronicles 2:35; 1 Chronicles 2:50, etc.
The genealogical lists of names are peculiarly liable to corruptions of the text, and there are many such in the books of Chronicles, Ezra, etc. Jerome speaks of these corruptions having risen to a fearful height in the Septuagint (Praefat. in Paraleip.). In like manner, the lists of high-priests in Josephus are so corrupt, that the names are scarcely recognizable. This must be borne in mind in dealing with the genealogies.
The Bible genealogies give an unbroken descent of the house of David from the creation to the time of Christ. The registers at Jerusalem must have supplied the same to the priestly and many other families. They also inform us of the origin of most of the nations of the earth, and carry the genealogy of the Edomitish sovereigns down to about the time of Saul. Viewed as a whole, it is a genealogical collection of surpassing interest and accuracy (Rawlinson, Herodot. volume 1, chapter 2; Burrington, General. Tables of the Old and New Testaments, London, 1836; Selden's Works, passim).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Genealogy'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​g/genealogy.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.